Raymond Keene

Short shrift

Short shrift
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On 10 May, Britain’s most famous grandmaster, Nigel Short, chose the pages of the Times to announce his surprise candidacy for the post of president of Fidé, the World Chess Federation. It is high time indeed that someone had the courage to attempt the clean-up of this organisation, whose bank account has recently been terminated with extreme prejudice by UBS.

It will be essential for Nigel’s prospects that he receives the fullest backing of the English Chess Federation and its highest officials. To stiffen their resolve in the face of foreign blandishments, I urge ‘all who love the game’ (in the ringing words of the Times editorial in support of Nigel) to encourage the ECF to summon up their courage. Contact ECF President Dominic Lawson and International Director Malcolm Pein to express your support (englishchess.org.uk).

This week, a fine finish by Nigel, plus a bit of Russian brilliance which caught my eye recently.

Skatchkov-Maletin: Russian Team Championship, Sochi 2018; Semi-Slav Defence

1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Nf3 e6 5 e3 Nbd7 6 Qc2 Bd6 7 Bd3 0-0 8 0-0 dxc4 9 Bxc4 Qe7 10 h3 e5 All this is commonplace and White now often embarks on a plan with a quick e4 (playing this move either immediately or very soon) to prevent Black from gaining space with the same move himself. 11 Rd1 Bc7 12 b3 e4 13 Ng5 b5 14 Be2 Re8 This sets a clever trap. If now 15 Nxb5 then 15 ... cxb5 16 Qxc7 Nd5 17 Qg3 Nc3 18 Re1 Nxe2+ 19 Rxe2 h6 traps the white knight. 15 f3 Qd6 16 Ncxe4 White goes astray. He must play 16 f4 to stop the black queen invading. 16 ... Qh2+ 17 Kf2 Nxe4+ 18 Nxe4 Black now has a winning attack but it takes superb tactical insight to prove this. (see diagram 1) 18 ... Rxe4! The first blow. Now 19 Qxe4 is abruptly despatched by 19 ... Bg3+ 20 Kf1 Qh1 mate. 19 fxe4 Bg3+ 20 Kf3 Ne5+! An amazing move. Black jettisons a further piece in order to get his light-squared bishop into the attack as quickly as possible. 21 dxe5 Bxh3! (see diagram 2) Yet another sacrifice. Now 22 gxh3 Qf2+ 23 Kg4 Bxe5 leads to a quick mate. 22 Bc4 An attempt to confuse the issue. The natural 22 Bf1 can be met by 22 ... Bxe5 when the rook on a1 is threatened and Black also plans 23 .. Bg4+! mating. Alternatively 22 Bd3 runs into the clever 22 ... Bg4+! 23 Kxg4 Bh4 and there is no decent defence to the threat of 24 ... Qg3+ mating. 22 ... h5 22 ... Bh4 also wins. 23 Ke2 Qxg2+ White resigns 24 Kd3 Rd8+ 25 Kc3 Bxe5+ wins.